Its a name you would expect to find on a fly-poster for an all-nighter rather than making FA Cup headlines. Yesterday, after two classic pieces of finishing, DJ Campbell was all the rave. Last season, the striker so crucial to Yeading's fine run before the non-League side were eliminated by Newcastle seared football's consciousness before disappearing from view. Brentford's manager, Martin Allen, though, appreciated his potential. The striker's reward was a move here.
"Our biggest summer signing," growledAllen. "Five grand." After yesterday, you suspect that may not be the end of his travels, either. The manner in which he executed both his goals, one early in the second half and one a minute or so from time, to oust a desperately poor Sunderland will have commended him to many higher-placed clubs.
"Last year he was playing in the Premier League. The Ryman Premier," said Allen drily. "When I signed him, I informed him that he'd need three or four months to build up his upper-body strength, and that he'd have to build up his teamwork. He was no longer just an individual who could score goals. It was also vital that he didn't lose that certain magic. He's done that; he's been a dedicated professional, and, no disrespect to Yeading, has stepped up a level."
Allen, whose principal concern is promotion from League One, will not mind this distraction. For his counterpart, Mick McCarthy, football life can hardly get worse. If it had been bad fortune that had cost his side progress in the competition he could have lived with it. The truth was that Sunderland did not even merit the replay they appeared likely to force until Campbell struck unerringly.
"Better than us, and they deserved to win. No question," declared McCarthy, who wore the demeanour of a man who had had some harsh words to say in the visitors' dressing-room. "They've done a job on us."
Before the game, Allen's "lucky" suede boots had been savaged by the family dog, Winston, but he wore them anyway. They clearly had their effect on his superbly orchestrated team. Allen lifted them up to exhibit the damage. Chaplin would have been proud of them. "My boots sum up our little club," he said. "They didn't cost a lot, they've got a lot of holes, but they are the ones that carry me forward. I'm proud to wear them."
Beforehand, there had been more than the usual hint of FA Cup-day optimism in the chill air of west London. The install-ation of a new chairman in Greg Dyke, appointed non-executive chairman of the club by the new owners, Bees United, the supporters' trust, augured well for the future. An interesting move for Mr Roland Rat. From BBC's D-G to Bees' Knees.
The first half was virtually all Brentford's. The England coach, Sven Goran Eriksson, to Allen's chagrin, had not heard of the club, but the Brentford manager, who galvanised his men animatedly from the touchline throughout, was determined that Sunderland would not forget them. Their approach work was neat, balls invariably played on the floor, but once Kelvin Davis's goal was in sight, the aim was to seek out the heads of Lloyd Owusu and Campbell. It caused a degree of consternation, but the forwards did not possess the composure to inflict terminal damage.
Davis nearly misjudged a looping header from Campbell before managing to turn the ball over. Just in case we had not appreciated how close Brentford had been, Allen turned to the crowd and acted out a theatrical replay of what had taken place. How they love him here.
Having produced nothing, on the stroke of 45 minutes the Wearsiders could have taken the lead, Dean Whitehead provoking a splendid diving save from Stuart Nelson.
The Bees spurned two early chances in the second half, Campbell shooting wide after the visitors' rearguard had failed to clear and then Owusu heading over from a Jay Tabb corner.
Julio Arca began to cast his spell and, at the culmination of Sunderland's best move, Jon Stead headed his cross wide. The contest pulsed with possibilities at either end, and just when it appeared that the Premiership side were beginning to assert themselves, Campbell deployed devastating pace to leave his markers trailing in his wake as Tabb played him through, and he rounded Davis before applying the coup de grâce. That advantage was richly deserved, but Arca is always liable to produce something special from his repertoire, and he did so, floating a mischievous curled effort, which may actually have been an attempted cross, from a tight angle on the left flank, which deceived Nelson.
A replay appeared inevitable until that man Campbell appeared on the scene again, again eluding the attentions of the Sunderland defence, before placing a beautifully precise shot past Davis.
Even his manager stood still, for once, in admiration. One hell of a tale to wag the Mad Dog.Reuse content